Greening Your Science Curriculum

Article excerpt

If your school offers Earth Science, Environmental Science, or Geology, you may think, "Well, that teacher has the 'environmental education' thing covered. No need for me to change my classes." The problem, though, is that no single teacher can educate all students about environmental issues.

You do not need to significantly change your curriculum to incorporate environmental topics. There are plenty of course-specific resources that can help you green your individual course content; or, if your whole science department is "on board," you can green your curriculum together. Each department member can develop a course-specific unit that addresses an environmental issue and teaches course content. Or, the whole department can agree on one issue and have each course cover some part of it.

Here is a closer look at these two methods of greening your science department's curriculum.

Course-specific green units

The interdisciplinary nature of most environmental topics makes them relatively easy to insert into any science class. One great resource is the Environmental Literacy Council's website (see "On the web"), which offers more than 1,000 pages of background information on environmental issues; it also has curricular materials for all scientific disciplines. In addition, the February 2010 issue of The Science Teacher contains at least one green activity or topic for each of the core sciences. The following ideas are for course-specific green units:

Physics

* Apply physics principles to problems in the natural environment (environmental physics).

* Reinforce fluid mechanics concepts through study of the environmental disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina (Bertrand 2009).

* Analyze the physics of WALL-E, an animated film with a sustainability message (Morris and Stanton 2008). (An NSTA Reports movie review is available online [see "On the web"].)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Chemistry

* Review density, salinity, and saturation while investigating aquatic dead zones (Testa et al. 2010).

* Use environmental chemistry knowledge to synthesize, implement, and disseminate a plan to reduce students' ecological footprints (Heddings and Frazier 2009).

Biology

* Reinforce photosynthesis, respiration, and eutrophication while investigating aquatic dead zones (Testa et al. 2010).

* Highlight ecosystem-level changes observed on the western Antarctic Peninsula through directed inquiry (Constible, Sandro, and Lee 2007).

One green unit for the whole department

At a science department meeting--preferably near the beginning of the year--decide on one environmental issue that the entire department would like to address. This may be an environmental topic in the news (e.g., the Gulf Oil Spill), one that is more basic (e.g., energy conversions), or one that is both basic and in the news (e.g., climate change). Choose a topic that every science teacher is "on board with" and willing to teach in his or her class. At my former school, we chose to teach one aspect of climate change in every science class over the course of a school year. …